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Ads not performing? Strategies to steal from the email marketing playbook

Columnist Mike Sands says if you’re not connecting with your customers, it might be time to take a page from email marketing, which has high performance metrics thanks to meaningful interactions with consumers.

I don’t know a marketer today who doesn’t marvel at the pace the industry is moving. But ask any CMO what his or her priorities are, and chances are good that a key focus today was also on the priority list five, 10, even 20 years ago — and will continue to remain so for years into the future.

What marketing goal could possibly stand this test of time? The answer: connecting with customers.

Consumer behavior has evolved, and the technologies available to marketers seem to multiply by the day. But the true purpose of marketing is and has always been to help brands get closer to their customers.

It was certainly one of my top priorities when I started my career two decades ago in the agency world, and it remained a chief concern when I was CMO of one of the first online travel sites in the early 2000s. To steal a phrase out of today’s playbook, marketing has always been “people-based.”

Of course, with the introduction of digital technologies, the holy grail of marketing — right person, right place, right time — was supposed to be easier to achieve.

But most marketers are farther from their customers than ever. They struggle to recognize consumers as they move between screens and from stores to devices.

The majority of marketers (registration required) say that they don’t have a single view of their customers across channels, and 80 percent of consumer-facing companies say they don’t understand their customers (or their journeys) beyond basic demographics and purchase history.

The root of marketers’ challenge today is that their customers spend an increasing amount of time on a growing number of connected devices. The average person uses three or more devices, and some studies show they use up to seven.

Legacy marketing technology relies on cookies, device IDs or third-party data to target the cross-device consumer across these different platforms. So, for example, instead of reaching Mike — the true me — advertisers are instead only able to see me as an iPhone or as part of a generic segment like “auto-intenders.”

As a result, brands have become disintermediated from their customers, and consumers are bombarded with disconnected, irrelevant and annoying experiences.

Enter addressability

This is why the future of marketing is about addressability. The ability to market to real, known people is rooted in direct response marketing, where, thanks to rich first-party data, marketers have remained connected to customers.

These email marketers, loyalty marketers and CRM (customer relationship management) marketers base their outreach on the specific information they have about customers. In turn, they have an unmatched ability to create meaningful, personalized interactions, which is why email marketing remains relevant today — and continues to result in high performance metrics.

Consider these statistics:

  • Average open rates for email marketing campaigns are more than 20 percent, and click-through rates average over three percent. That’s 350 times higher than the average click-through rate for display ads, which average 0.06 percent.
  • 91 percent of marketing executives report finding email effective in delivering revenue.
  • 44 percent of email recipients made at least one purchase in the last 12 months based on a promotional email.

Given such amazing performance metrics, CMOs might be inclined to proclaim: “Email all day, every day!” However, email marketing can only go so far, because eventually, another email will be one too many, and customers will be fatigued with communications.

Connecting with real people exactly when they’re in the market for a product or service is the way forward for marketers exploring new strategies to get closer to customers. By leveraging first-party data for media targeting, this method mirrors the direct targeting approach that works well in email and brings it into the world of digital advertising, where consumers are engaging in real time.

The result is more relevant advertising, reduced waste, better customer engagement and improved return on ad spend.

Marketers who are thinking about new ways to get closer to customers should study how the data-driven strategies used by direct response marketers can be applied to other channels. That’s the possibility people-based marketing presents — a possibility that is real and here today.



by Mike Sands